Black Leather Horse Mask with Application and Long Mane
I never thought I would buy a pony/horse mask.
Certainly not because I don't like them - I've always admired their beauty and ability to transform their wearer into a moving piece of art - but rather because of my approach to pony play.
I like my play to be heavy on equipment. I want the equipment to leave me no choice but to obey whomever holds the reins.
I want to feel the bit digging into my mouth. I want a bridle with a bunch of straps to hold that bit perfectly in place no matter how hard I try to extricate it.
But...I can't deny the aesthetics of a well crafted mask on a human pony. It has an undeniably refined look. More to the point though, it adds a degree of anonyomity. I don't mean that in the literal sense. What I mean is that a mask depersonalizes the wearer.
It's easier for a trainer to be a bit more cruel, more severe, when there are no eyes to plead with her, no face to contort in pain. It's easier to be treated like an animal when the trainer doesn't have to stare at a human face.
With this fantasy in mind, I set about looking for a mask that could dehumanize me while simultaneously representing my pony self to the world.
As it turns out, there are actually (cue convenient list) several places to purchase horse head masks, with more appearing all the time (Etsy is a great place to look for new makers; you can also check eBay, however eBay has a high noise floor and, in my opinion, is more suited to finding a particular item than it is for browsing for a class of items), and I enjoyed looking through all the photos of beautiful, skillfully crafted pony masks.
I had a hard time deciding on a mask until I saw this Bob Basset mask. I fell in love with it as soon as I saw it. It felt unique. I thought it struck a cool balance between realism and fetishism, and so I decided to buy it. The mask I purchased, and which I'm reviewing here is the "Black Leather Horse Mask with Application and Long Mane."
Anyway, you didn't come here to hear me drone on about my preferences in tack or my motivations for purchasing various pieces of equipment (or maybe you did; no doubt some of you must be masochists), so let's get to the review.
A quick note about Bob Basset studios: Oleg Petrov, the original creative force behind Bob Basset studios, died in 2011. So masks originating from his studio are often classed into those made while he was there (i.e. pre 2011) and those made after his death. Obviously, since I purchased it new, the mask reviewed here falls into the latter category.
Ordering and Shipping
As per usual, I want to touch on the ordering process before getting to the fun stuff. Bob Basset studios is based in Ukraine, and their masks (apart from the occasional one they sell via eBay (here and here)) are made to order, so I was mentally prepared for a good month's wait (they quote 14 days to make the mask and an additional 14 days for shipping).
The ordering process went smoothly and was done via email. Although they have a website with a gallery of the masks they offer along with prices, there is no option to directly place an order via the site. To order, I simply hit the "Enquire" button on the product page of the mask and entered my name and email in the box that popped up.
They contacted me within a couple days, and after a few emails back and forth confirming the price, shipping cost, and production time, I sent them the measurements of my head (they sent me a little diagram showing which measurements were needed, so no worries there) and paid them via Paypal. The total came up to $1015 ($975 for the mask and $40 for shipping to my humble abode here in northern California).
10 days later, I received an email with photos of my new mask attached and a note asking if I was happy with the work. I said yes, the photos look great, and I was excited to get my grubby little hooves on it. Less than a day later, they emailed me saying the mask had shipped and gave me the tracking number. About two weeks later, I received the mask.
All in all, the time from when I first contated them to when I recieved the mask was about what I anticipated: a month. Obviously the shipping time may be shorter if you're in Europe, or longer if, for example, you're in Australia.
The Mask Arrives
Removing the mask from the box, my immediate impression was of the leather. The mask smelled wonderfully of leather. The thickness of the leather was surprising, especially around the base. This allowed the mask to hold its shape well through some poking, flexing and prodding (not too much, just enough to get a feel for it).
I was also impressed with the mane. Although it's not real horsehair, it's well made and hangs naturally to the right of the mask. The mask I purchased has a long mane (this is an extra option with Bob Basset horse masks). Personally I like a long mane. I find it aesthetically pleasing, and I'm glad I went that route.
However, one thing to note with a long mane on a mask like this is that the mane gets everywhere. I'm not just talking about it blocking your vision (which it also does), I mean it gets everywhere: it gets stuck on the eyelets for the laces, it gets wedged underneath the decorative leather, and it gets wrapped around the ear.
You really have to be patient and careful not to break the strands when getting into or out of the mask.
The mask is a full head coverage mask and is secured in place via laces. Although you might not be able to tell from the photos, there are two sets of laces, one on the left and one on the right.
Fortunately, you don't need to unlace both sets of laces to put the mask on. Since the mane falls to the right, covering up the mask's laces on that side, I found it easiest to unlace the left set of laces.
The lace up design lends itself to a tighter, more contoured fit. This means the mask has less play and is more likely to stay in place - both good things in my opinion. It also has the additional benefit (beneficial to me anyway) of making the mask more bondagey.
However, this comes at the price of convenience. A mask that buckles around the back of the head, or one that zips closed is easier to put on and take off. I'm inclined to prefer lace up hoods and masks for private play because they're harder to get off and feel snug, but I'm not sure as yet if I will feel the same way about masks worn for public play. I'll have to revisit this point if I end up wearing this mask in public (especially crowded venues such as Folsom).
The ears are pretty well sized (proportionally speaking) for a horse head, maybe very slightly thin. The eyes are placed stragically - a compromise between realism and giving the wearer some depth perception.
Upon putting the mask on, I was surprised at how well I was able to see out of the eyes. The lenses on the eyes are tinted, giving the world a yellowish hue. This is beneficial when playing outdoors in bright light, where they act like sunglasses.
The flip side is, of course, it's hard to see well when playing indoors or at night.
While it was easy to see out of the eyes initially, I found that after a minute in the mask the interior of the lenses fogged up from the humidty of my breath. The condensation on the interior of the eyes rapidly became so severe that I could no longer see anything through them. However, I found that I could tilt my head slightly to see out through the mouth of the mask.
I'm going to try using a commercial anti-fog solution on the inside of the eyes to see if that helps. Another solution that I've heard about involves placing a small fan into the mask to circulate air inside. This doesn't appeal to me personally, but I can see how this might be useful if the mask is intended for long term wear or in public/crowded areas.
Aside from the fogging, wearing the mask was surprisingly comfortable. Physically, the mask fit my head well (but that wasn't a big surprise since it was made with my head's measurements), and contrary to my original worries, the mask didn't feel too hot or stuffy even after wearing it awhile.
Here's a brief video clip of me wearing the mask to give you a few different angles of view of the mask:
Aesthetically, I'm pleased with the mask. The decorative leather applications on this mask are what caught my eye originally. They are definitely a matter of personal taste (Bob Basset makes a similar mask without the applications if they are not your liking).
To augment the aesthetics, I decided to order a bridle for the mask.
I wanted a bridle that would match my harness and other tack, most of which is black with red leather lining (I'm not really sure how this first started, but anyway).
It wasn't terribly difficult to find bridles in a wide variety of colors, but the hard part was finding a sufficiently small one.
The smallest bridle I found in a suitable coloration was in pony size. I knew this would still be too big, but I went ahead and bought it anyway since I couldn't find anything smaller that matched the color scheme of my harness.
As it turned out, the fit wasn't horrible - you'd never ride a horse with a bridle that fits this badly, but for photos and bedroom pony play, it's good enough :)
I have a couple potential solutions to make the bridle fit better that are in the works, so hopefully one of them will pan out. If so, I'll post the details here.
If you don't mind an all black or brown bridle, you can buy a miniature horse sized bridle, which are readily available in those colors. A miniature horse size bridle should result in a much better fit.
However, even with a correctly sized bridle, the design of the mask poses a problem when trying to use a bio-horse bridle: the way in which the mane sticks up from the mask prevents a bridle from sitting flat on the head of the mask.
Note in the photo below, the bulge of the crown piece where it is pushed up by the mane. The only option I see here is cutting a bridle path, which is definitely not something I'm planning on doing with my new pony mask.
Also of note, a 3" bit is pretty much a necessity with this mask. Just as a pony sized bridle is too big for the mask, a horse sized bit looks completely ridiculous in its mouth. A bit with a mouthpiece longer than 3.5" is going to protrude from either side of the mask's mouth in an obvious manner. Fortunately, you won't need to buy many bits for the mask. The bit is only for show (it doesn't reach the wearer's mouth), so having a couple bits will be more than enough.
An item like this is difficult to review. A horse/pony mask is much closer to a work of art than a piece of hardware such as, say a metal bit or a pair of hobbles (though even the latter can be so beautifully made as to cross the line into art).
A lot of it simply comes down to personal preference. For example, I love the leather applications on the mask, others may not. I love the long mane, others may not.
Objectively, what I can say is that the mask is well made. It does not seem to be in any danger of falling apart, and it fits me well. These points speak well of the craftsmanship.
Nearly every aspect of the mask was to my liking. The only downside I found was the difficulty in fitting a bridle to the mask. Aside from the small size, which is to be expected, the positioning of the mane makes it difficult for a bridle to sit well. This same problem would be encountered when trying to use a bio-horse halter as well. This is a very minor point, but still one worth noting.
My overall rating for this mask is 4.75 out of 5 stars.
The "black leather horse mask with application and long mane" by Bob Basset will run you
(as of 2015-07-11) $975 (as of 2015-12-28) $1100 plus shipping ($40 to the US). While I wouldn't exactly call this a steal, I do think it's reasonably priced.